By Malice Intended of Planet Ill
Slacker extraordinaire Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) is a fairly average guy leading an fairly average life. He plays bass guitar for the marginally talented band Sex Bob-Bomb and dates high school student Knives Chau (Ellen Wong), who is worshipful of him. He becomes infatuated with the cynical and sarcastic Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and starts dating her behind Knives back.
All seems to be going well when Ramona’s seven evil ex boyfriends come out of the woodwork and begin challenging Scott to series of super powered duels to the death. At that moment, Scott’s life goes from fairly mundane to wildly surreal. So begins the saga of the amazing Scott Pilgrim.
Writer/director Edgar Wright, the man behind cult favorites such as Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, now applies his eccentric touch to Bryan Lee O’Malley’s acclaimed comic series. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World takes relationship dilemmas that are fairly common among the twenty something set and puts them in the frame work of video games, manga, and countless pop culture references. The results are somewhat incoherent, but visually engaging nonetheless.
Visually, the film is as faithful to the comics as one could imagine, incorporating many elements of comic style storytelling. Lines radiate from characters heads to show surprise and awe. Sound effects are not only heard on the soundtrack but rendered on screen with cartoon words followed by exclamation points. The fight scenes have a specifically manga sensibility, showing split screen close-ups of characters sailing through the air toward each other.
Elements of classic games from the 8-bit and 16 bit platforms of old are also incorporated. Each fight is preceded by a title card and scoreboard. Characters turn into coins and power ups when defeated. Sound effects from such well known classics as Super Mario Brothers and other Nintendo titles are used repeatedly during key moments. These are just a few of the more obvious video game references that appear.
The action itself is actually impressive considering that the film isn’t being marketed as being in that particular vain. Blows are thrown and blocked with ease. The swift movements create a nice ebb and flow that is established early on and maintained throughout the films. All of the principle actors pull of these feats convincingly, even though they might not exactly look the part.
Scott Pilgrim’s main drawback is its unsympathetic and at times unlikable protagonist. Scott’s feelings and motivations are easy enough to relate to, but he is both ineffectual and impotent. It’s hard to invest in a character that is so aloof and clueless. This is obviously intentional but hardly endearing. The supporting characters don’t fare much better, and behave in manner that suggests they are in on the joke. The characters are so off putting as to render the first act of the film nearly unwatchable.
Both visually exciting and exceedingly annoying, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World manages to entertain despite its obnoxious cast of characters. The underlying theme of learning to deal with the baggage of past relationships would have made for a compelling and truly touching story where more engaging characters provided. That said, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is one of the most visually creative comic adaptations ever attempted. That alone makes it well worth the price of admission. 3.5 out of 5
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